In 1985, Don't Stand Me Down
, the third studio album by Dexy's Midnight Runners
was released. In a rare interview, front man Kevin Rowland and violinist Helen O'Hara
talk about the making of what is now considered Dexy's lost masterpiece
. The record was not an immediate success.
The first problem was the music. The album's centerpiece, the 12 minute magnum opus This Is What She's Like
, featured a full two minutes of banter between Rowland and guitarist Billy Adams before the music kicked in. Elsewhere, on Knowledge of Beauty
Rowland sang candidly about his Irish heritage, without making his political affiliations clear, at a moment when Anglo-Irish relations were particularly tense. Less provocative, but also deeply personal was the rousing love song from Kevin to Helen, Listen to This
, recorded just as they were breaking up.
Even more damaging was the band's appearance at the time. Publicity stills
showed the band the band dressed in a style that certain critics described as the "double glazing salesman look"
. For a band well known for their distinctive clothing
, this baffling development was seen as boring and conservative. But, like the music, it was ripe for reappraisal. Following the On the Waterfront
look of Searching for the Young Soul Rebels, and the Celtic soul look of Too-Rye-Ay, the styling was in fact a sophisticated take on the post-Mod "suedehead" persona
popular in London in the late sixties when Rowland was a teenager
. These looks in turn heavily referenced the Ivy League styles
that had been appropriated by Hollywood's best dressed gentlemen
in the years before.
It wasn't enough. The record bombed, and Rowland went into self-destructive decline, only to emerge a decade and a half later, wearing a dress, to almost universal ridicule, as has been discussed previously on the blue
. Even though My Beauty
has found an audience of sorts
, Rowland clearly knows a thing or two about what it means to make people angry with what you're wearing
So, what's he like
then? The Italians have a word for it.
BONUS LINK: The newly reformed Dexys perform Free, from their forthcoming album, live on TV